Through their mission to feed and educate, La Tablée Des Chefs hopes to have a positive social impact on communities. We spoke with Jean-François Archambault, CEO & Founder of La Tablée des Chefs to find out exactly how they are helping those in need.
Describe your charity/non-profit.
La Tablée des Chefs is a charity whose mission is to fight against food insecurity and educate young people to develop their food autonomy. We are committed to feeding people in need and teaching young people to cook.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Through our mission to feed and educate, we hope to have a positive social impact on our communities. At the start of the pandemic, we were approached by suppliers, farmers, restaurants, hotels and large venue sites who wanted to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. We contacted chefs at restaurants and large kitchen sites and organized food delivery to these places where the food would then be cooked and frozen. This was the beginning of our innovative initiative known as Solidarity Kitchens.
When did you start/join it?
We created La Tablée des Chefs in 2002 with the belief that chefs and cooks have a responsibility to join the fight against food insecurity and help train young people to cook. Since 2002, more than 30,000 young people have received culinary training in high schools and youth centres; more than 3,000,000 portions have been distributed to people in need.
What made you want to get involved?
The situation around food waste in the hotel industry fueled my desire to find out why so much food was being thrown away, especially when it was prepared with such passion and dedication by chefs and culinary teams. In addition, after my mom’s 10-year battle against cancer, I was triggered to make a difference and be a part of the solution.
What was the situation like when you started?
Food waste was not a popular subject to discuss in the late 90s and early 2000s. When I started, I faced urban legends around chefs being sued for food poisoning because they gave excess food to people in need. However, the chefs and cooks were never the problem; it was mostly management or ownership that were worried about their reputation.
Moreover, when it came to food education, I had read a study on the loss of culinary knowledge and skills among youth in mostly underprivileged areas. That’s when we decided to launch the second pillar of our mission and help build food education and literacy among youth in secondary schools.
In terms of our Solidarity Kitchens initiative during the pandemic, we needed to secure approval from the Ministry of Agriculture to have chefs and cooks use their kitchens while dining rooms remained closed. Once we received the green light, we assessed the needs and quantity of meals required. After engaging Food Banks Canada, we determined 400,000 meals a month for the province of Quebec. Next, we turned to the Farmers Union, IGA and wholesalers to gather ingredients (over 100 tons at first), including items normally dedicated to the hotel industry. We organized our supply chain and distribution, and mobilized over 50 kitchens and culinary teams to prepare meals. Our initial objective was 800,000 meals and we ended up coordinating 2.4 million meals in Quebec from March-December 2020.
How has it changed since?
It took some time, but things are much easier to address now. Food security has become top of mind in the media, which has helped us convince establishments to join our mission and implement our food recovery program, in addition to getting more involved with schools to develop food literacy among youth. The passion of the chefs and their mobilization around our actions are triggering real impact, and we are hopeful we can do even more. The project has potential to scale and reach beyond just Quebec, which is great because we know the impact it has on both food security and food education.
When it comes to our Solidarity Kitchens initiative, pressure remains high to continue meal production. Our goal is currently around 2 millions meals between January and September 2021. Ingredients are harder to find, emergency funds are more difficult to confirm and kitchens have lost staff due to the impact of the pandemic. Moreover, needs are still in excess of around 30% in food security across the country. We are still able to run our production with less kitchens, but with higher objectives. We anticipate being in production for at least another year when we plan with food banks’ needs. The whole industry has been really generous with us!
What more needs to be done?
While the population continues to suffer the repercussions of the pandemic and food insecurity is still present everywhere in the country, we need to come together and support the vulnerable members of our communities. This year, our goal is to cook and deliver more than 2 million servings to support community food distribution networks in Canada as part of the Solidarity Kitchens initiative.
How can our readers help?
Our Solidarity Kitchens initiative will continue to support the food security needs of our communities. If you are interested in getting involved or donating, please visit www.tableedeschefs.org for more information.
Do you have any events coming up?
La Tablée des Chefs will be selling gourmet Solidarity Baskets in Toronto in the fall to fundraise its work and Solidarity Kitchens. The specialty baskets will have unique handmade treats and culinary delights from top chefs from across Canada highlighting regional delicacies. Orders will be taken after September 1st, 2021. To order your gourmet Solidarity Basket baskets for colleagues or friends, please see here.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
We work with incredible local charities across Canada. In Ontario, we’ve partnered with Second Harvest to deliver 150,000 meals to people in need as part of our Solidarity Kitchens initiative. We want to sincerely thank Second Harvest and all of our valued partners for their support in bringing this initiative to life and joining us in the fight against food insecurity.